My small daughter favours her Oma, which often confuses me in the weirdest moments. She’ll make a face that looks like her mama’s mama, but her whole demeanor and physical appearance is such a mix between my wife, Miriam, and my mother, Martha Frances.
As they say, she went to meet her maker a few weeks back, so I’m in Texas dealing with the fallout.
My brother, Michael, and his wife, Sara, and their kids have done so much that Miriam and I are at mom’s house wondering how we can be useful.
One thing I’ve decided is to organise her books. Some I want, but honestly? How many copies of ‘Liturgy for Living’ does one really need? I’ve got one now, if you’d like it. You may have it.
While I respect and honour my mother and her work, I don’t quite understand most of what her books had to do with her actual life. It’s too big a question to answer here, and to be candid even positing the question properly would take a lot of time.
Instead I’ll focus on the books I did find. She assured me while I was on the phone in Munich and she back here in Houston, that she wasn’t afraid of dying.
She insisted she had a few years left if not more. Even the second to last time we spoke, I said goodbye and had the weirdest feeling it’d be the last conversation we had.
I told her, and she responded, ‘Oh, darling. It’s nothing like that. I’ll be here much longer — I’m already feeling better and you and your brother are overreacting.’
Famous last words, eh?
So the next day, she called and the baby was already awake. As was their custom, the baby took the phone and walked away so she could get some alone time with her Oma.
They went in the other room – my mom on the screen thanks to FaceTime – and they proceeded to enjoy each other’s company. My loving and sometimes gentle mother and her namesake an ocean away. Singing and cooing and just being really adorable.
Watching them together sometimes made me think of that scene in The Godfather whereMarlon Brando’s character plays In the garden with his small grandchild.
That was it, though. The phone call. Their, and I suppose our, last conversation. And my kid hogged the phone. She’s only one year old!
I miss my mom, but as soon as I write that I realise everything that comes out of my mouth next is palaver.
Clichés, if you will.
She’s in a better place.
She’s no longer in pain.
She’s finally able to be back with her family that she had missed so much.
I suppose all of those things are true.
Yet it doesn’t stop me missing her. Wishing she could be here in person to delight in this beautiful child growing and learning.
I just want to open FaceTime and click on the little green button next to her picture I want to hear her West Texas accent answer, ‘Hello?’
Her voice gentle as I tell her one of my problems, stern if I admit Miriam and I’ve been fighting again, and hopeful when I speak of a new job or opportunity — her voice, that melodious and lovely sound.
How I wish I could just get her on the phone.
Hear her tell me again what she said nearly daily for almost fifty years. Hear her once again profess her love. Once again say it and expect me to say it back, which often annoyed me.
That manipulation. You just told me you love me and now I have to say it back? Why? Every time?
The protestations of a recalcitrant teenager, right? Right.
Say what you want, but I’ll leave this with one last thing. I’ve got few regrets in life, but now I wish I’d responded better to her love. Wish I’d seen it it for what it was.
Her very best. All she could give. All she could manage. Sometimes not up to my standard. Often not the kind or flavour of love I demanded.
Wish I could hear her in person or on the phone assure me of her love. Wish I could say it back.
One last time.
Just one last time.